Leading up to the
Zionist movement, there was almost constant warfare between tribes and villages which exceeded anything that was known in the most turbulent centuries of early feudal Europe. (1)
QUESTION: Why didn’t the Ottoman administration--the Turks and their lackeys, take action? Their empire ruled Palestine. They could have stopped the violence.
ANSWER: The Turkish governors were agreeable to this state of affairs (constant warfare). Why? Because they didn’t want any landowning families to consolidate their power on a permanent basis by which security would be ensured.
In other words, a peaceful Palestine would have been a threat to the Turks. Strife in Palestine was just fine for them.
And Remember: It was early in the following century (20th) that the Turkish administration and army exterminated one and one-half million Armenians—the first such act in the world to be called a genocide.
In the wars between villages it was common practice to cut down fruit trees and olives and to destroy crops.
Also, Bedouins freely destroyed the crops of villages which they raided, and killed or carried off their livestock. They filled wells with stones and broke down reservoirs and cisterns.
- streams and rivers became dammed
- malaria became endemic and
- the unlucky peasants fled elsewhere or starved
In first half of the nineteenth century the population sank to the lowest level it had ever known in historic times. (1)
So it was with The Land before the Jews returned.
* * * * * * * * * * *
A Witness to late 19th century Palestine—Mark Twain, Author
Twain visited Palestine in 1867 and reported on its bleakness and desolation. He wrote:
"Of all the lands there are for dismal scenery, I think Palestine must be the prince. The hills are barren, they are dull of color, they are unpicturesque in shape. The valleys are unsightly deserts fringed with a feeble vegetation that has an expression about it of being sorrowful and despondent…It is a hopeless, dreary, heart-broken land…Palestine sits in sackcloth and ashes." (From his book, The Innocents Abroad)
A Rabbi Speaks
The few Jewish communities there were in 19th century Palestine never knew when trouble was coming. Rabbi Mosha Reisher, writing in Jerusalem in the middle of that century wrote: “What shall I tell of the heavy burden of exile that fell upon the Jews dwelling in the Land of Life [i.e. the Holy Land] from the day they settled there….Jerusalem was full of ruins, and the surrounding countryside was desolate and neglected. Jews dared not venture outside the City wall for fear of being waylaid by robbers…The Jew would be sent off naked and barefoot…. The men who set upon them were not professional robbers or Bedouin, but their neighbors among whom they dwelt.” (Avraham Yaari: The Goodly Heritage, Jewish Agency, 1958)
Thus we see the pitiful condition of Jerusalem and its environs prior to the dawn of Zionism and the great return.
QUESTION: That turbulence and that bleakness—would it still be present in the land if the Jews had not come? ANSWER: Just take a look at the land of Israel’s neighbors now….and see what the Holy Land would be without the Jewish presence--tumult, low standard of living, mostly desolation and ignorance.
FAST FORWARD: Just thirty-some years into the 20th century.
In the 1930’s with Jewish communities now in the land, the Arabs in Palestine rioted repeatedly. They contended that there was not enough room in Palestine for the Jews.
The British Administration sent a commission to investigate. At this point the British really do not favor the Jews. Yet, after much research and a massive report, the commission’s conclusions contradicted the Arab arguments.
The Peel Commission (1937). They found that Arab complaints were baseless. To the complaint that there was not enough room for the Jews, the Commission found that if there were a shortage of land, it was due to a flood of illegal Arab immigration entering Palestine. The reason for this? Jobs, of course, due to Jewish industry, higher wages and an improved standard of living.
Of course, everyone knew that.
The contradiction has always been there: hate for the Jews and yet…a grudging acknowledgement for what the Jews produce
The Lie: Everything was O. K. before the Jews came.
“But you, O mountains of Israel, shall shoot out your branches
and yield your fruit to my people Israel; for they shall soon come home.
See now, I am for you; I will turn to you and you shall be tilled and sown;
and I will multiply your population, the whole house of Israel, all of it;
the towns shall be inhabited and the waste places rebuilt…”
-- Ezekiel 36:8-10 (NRSV)
(1) Information from James Parkes, historian, Anglican clergyman and author of books on Palestine including Whose Land? A History of the Peoples of Palestine, Taplinger, 1949, 1970.
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